November 14, 2017, 3:39 pm
Human rights group Amnesty International poured scorn on a Myanmar military investigation into alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, branding it a “whitewash” and calling for UN and independent investigators to be allowed into the country.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a counter-insurgency clearance operation in Rakhine State that a top UN official has called a classic case of “ethnic cleansing”.
Accusations of organised mass rape and other crimes against humanity were levelled at the Myanmar military on Sunday by another senior UN official, who had toured camps in Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees have taken shelter.
Myanmar’s military has consistently protested its innocence, and on Monday it posted the findings of an internal investigation on the Facebook page of its commander in chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
It said it had found no instances where its soldiers had shot and killed Rohingya villagers, raped women or tortured prisoners. It denied that security forces had torched Rohingya villages or used “excessive force”.
The military’s self-exoneration came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prepared to visit Myanmar on Wednesday for talks with leaders.
Both Tillerson and Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of a less than two-year-old civilian administration that has no control over the military, are attending a regional summit in Manila.
With US senators back in Washington pressing to impose economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the military and its business interests, Tillerson is expected to deliver a stern message to Myanmar's generals, while supporting the transition to democracy.
Suu Kyi discussed the Rohingya crisis with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Southeast Asian leaders’ summit in Manila.
“The secretary-general highlighted that strengthened efforts to ensure humanitarian access, safe, dignified, voluntary and sustained returns, as well as true reconciliation between communities, would be essential,” a UN representative said in brief note on the meeting.